Monday, April 2, 2012
Are you a writer or a storyteller?
a person who tells or writes stories or anecdotes.
a person who tells more or less trivial falsehoods; fibber.
Origin: 1700–10; story1 + teller 1
1. A person who has written a particular text.
2. A person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.
Ask most writers what they do, and they’ll say, “I’m a writer” (or novelist to be even more specific, or Fantasy/SF novelist to really narrow things down). But how many say, “I’m a storyteller”? To be fair, most people don’t call writers story tellers, and the term is fair vaguer than writer.
But it could be argued, that not all writers ARE storytellers as well. There seem to be many definitions of the two terms. Some believe that it’s more a reflection of the style of writing: storytellers get everything out in one giant lump, whereas writers do it piecemeal and re-write the story into being.
I have a few issues with that concept. One-the writers (term will be used to save my sanity) who “get everything out in one giant lump” still most likely are going back and doing a hell of a lot of re-writing. If they aren’t, and they are selling books like hotcakes, I want their secret!
Two- even folks who feel their strength is in re-writing still had some vague idea in mind when they did their rough draft, no matter how down and dirty that draft may be.
Then there is Donald Maass *cue angels singing here*; he views writer verses storyteller based on goal, rather than stylistic choices.
His view is that a writer is in it to make money, whereas the storyteller is in it to ….tell their story. The goal of the storyteller is to get across the wonderful ideas, places, and characters in their head for other folks to hopefully read. While publication would be nice, it’s not the driving goal of a storyteller. The writer however, is in it to be published. Bottom line, if you told both groups you will never be published, the storytellers would be bummed, but keep writing.
The “writers” would quit.
I can see where Maass is coming from, but not sure if I agree. My problem is using a common term used by all writers to address a small subset of them. I would argue that perhaps a unique term should be crafted for them that doesn’t confuse matters by using an already very generalized term.
But I agree with his idea.
There are writers out there for whom being published is the end all be all. And yes, if told by a crystal ball wielding gypsy they would never be published, they would walk away right now. It’s not even money (we all know there won’t be much-LOL), it’s that they see no other reason to write if not for others to read.
These folks may have lost the joy they feel at the creation process itself (or may never have had it). Or they feel that even though they enjoy it, friends, relatives, total strangers they happen to engage in casual conversation, will view them as a failure for writing just for themselves. No publication, no validation.
Now some folks say, "but character is far more important than story! I must not be a storyteller if I focus on character". Character is VITAL, but if they aren’t doing something interesting, plausible, and exciting- folks aren’t going to care.
Therefore, I’d argue that even character first writers could be storytellers.
If we use Maass’s concept, it’s easy to tell which you are (if you’re honest with yourself)- sink into the dark hole of doubt- tell yourself you’ll NEVER be published.
Still wanna write? If so, you’re a storyteller, and sorry, there’s no cure. If you honestly say no, you’re one of his “writers”. (Now banish that dark hole and get back out there!)
What about you? How do you see writer verse storyteller? How do you think of yourself based on that?